I had been grappling with this question for a long time … I know about all the prosperity promises the LORD gave to the Israelites but today’s world is still rife with poverty amongst Christians. Some people get offended when you say that God doesn’t want Christians to be poor because they think it means poor and needy Christians are not as worthy as others. A recent sermon by a pastor at church turned me to examine how the first church lived more closely: http://marshill.com/media/jesus-loves-his-church/jesus-builds-his-church
I then went back to the laws God gave the Israelites through Moses and discovered this:
4 “There should be no poor among you, for the Lord your God will greatly bless you in the land he is giving you as a special possession. 5 You will receive this blessing if you are careful to obey all the commands of the Lord your God that I am giving you today. 6 The Lord your God will bless you as he has promised. You will lend money to many nations but will never need to borrow. You will rule many nations, but they will not rule over you.
7 “But if there are any poor Israelites in your towns when you arrive in the land the Lord your God is giving you, do not be hard-hearted or tightfisted toward them. 8 Instead, be generous and lend them whatever they need. 9 Do not be mean-spirited and refuse someone a loan because the year for canceling debts is close at hand. If you refuse to make the loan and the needy person cries out to the Lord, you will be considered guilty of sin. 10 Give generously to the poor, not grudgingly, for the Lord your God will bless you in everything you do. 11 There will always be some in the land who are poor. That is why I am commanding you to share freely with the poor and with other Israelites in need.
People tend to skim over Bible passages and so I will restate some of what was said above … God instructed the Israelites to have NO POOR PEOPLE AMONGST THEM. Let that sink in for a bit … If they allowed that to happen and the poor people cried out to God … they would be GUILTY OF SIN. God commanded them to share freely with the poor. Now we know that they certainly didn’t do this because there were many poor people in Israel at the time of Jesus coming. For now keep in mind that God disallowed poverty amongst the Israelites who He considered ‘servants’.
Fast forward to Acts … Jesus has died and risen and ascended to heaven … and:
3 During the forty days after his crucifixion, he appeared to the apostles from time to time, and he proved to them in many ways that he was actually alive. And he talked to them about the Kingdom of God.
What did Jesus talk to them about? … the Kingdom of God … it is important to bear that in mind as we read on …
44 And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had.45 They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need.
32 All the believers were united in heart and mind. And they felt that what they owned was not their own, so they shared everything they had. … 34 There were no needy people among them, because those who owned land or houses would sell them 35 and bring the money to the apostles to give to those in need.
Do you see what happened here? In Deuteronomy God said … ‘There should be no poor among you’ and in Acts ‘There were no needy people among them’. It took the coming of Jesus and the Holy Spirit for those words to be fulfilled. It was impossible to obey that command from the Lord just as it was impossible to obey the law.
Now fast forward to today. This has some serious implications for the body of Christ today. I will be the first to admit that I don’t feel like what I have is not my own … and it would be very difficult for me to ‘share everything I have’. But I definitely don’t want to see any needy Christians in my mist. The thing that the church today has missed is that it is not fulfilling the financial needs of its members. When I say church … I am referring to the people NOT the building. If anyone knew about the Kingdom of God and how Jesus wanted Christians to live, it would be the disciples who lived with him for 3 years. They saw it fit as part of the churches activities to oversee redistribution of money to those who were in need and to feed the widows and orphans in the church. How many of you, if you were in need of food or shelter could go to your pastor and ask for help? For some reason, we think we know better than they did and have decided to ignore the physical needs of our fellow poor Christians and have delegated that job to God and Jesus instead.
From reading the above verses in the Bible, it is clear that God expects all His children’s needs to be met. It is also clear that His preferred way of doing it is not through some miracle of financial breakthrough … rather God wants the members of the body to take care of each other.
Spend a moment and imagine your pastor announcing this at church next Sunday:
“Fellow brothers and sisters in Christ … You shouldn’t feel like everything you have is your own, as a church, we should share everything we have. If you have more houses, land or cars or any property than you need … go and sell them and bring the money to us. If any of you are in need of any of these things, wait after the service and fill out a form to write down your needs. We will be redistributing just as the disciples of Jesus did. ”
What would be your reaction? Your guess is as good as mine yet your pastor wouldn’t be doing anything unbiblical … in fact he would rather be administering the Kingdom of God as expressed in the scriptures and lived out by the early disciples. Notice that the needy Christians didn’t have to petition or earn or do anything to have their needs met … it just happened as part of the saving Grace of Jesus Christ.
Another interesting take on this is to think about all the sheep who have been duped by wolves because we completely missed the fact that God wants us to provide for our fellow Christians. Instead our primary means of provision in the Church has been to give into the coffers of the church organization and expect God to bless us in return. God will definitely bless you for giving to His Kingdom but I can assure you that His primary means of providing for you … His perfect will for providing for your needs is through your fellow believers. Note this is addressed to ‘poor Christians’ or ‘those in need’ NOT those in want.
Also note that if the believers of the world lived this way, we wouldn’t spend time arguing about whether or not God wants to prosper or to be poor … or about prosperity theology or all those other numerous unbeneficial things. Christians wouldn’t be afraid of famines or losing their jobs or any other sort of financial down turn because they would know that the other members of the body would be there to see them through it. This is how Jesus intended for us to live. You would never be wary of becoming too rich because all your wealth would be going to help needy Christians.
I will be speaking to my church leaders about ensuring that there are no poor amongst us and I would urge you to do the same too. We are guilty of sin if we allow that to happen. I would urge you to speak to your church too. The church should be meeting both the physical and spiritual needs of its members so that people from the outside can testify about us that ‘… there [are] no needy people amongst them …’ . I can assure you that if there are needy people in our part of the body, then we have missed the mark.
May God’s will be done on earth concerning poverty amongst His children so that it will be forever eliminated.
Blessings and Regards,